Wildlife series. Steve encounters gremlin-like aye-ayes and Madagascar's most ferocious carnivore as he searches the vast island for contenders for the Deadly 60.
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My name's Steve Backshall.
This is my mission to find the Deadly 60.
That's not just animals that are deadly to me,
but animals that are deadly in their own world.
My crew and I are exploring the planet...
and you're coming with me every step of the way.
This is Madagascar.
It's a vast island in the Indian Ocean,
off the east coast of Africa.
Everything that lives here is just a little bit special.
Even the trees, like these mighty baobabs,
are weirder than you find them anywhere else.
But when it comes to the wildlife, it's so unique
that most of it isn't found anywhere else on the planet.
As a vast island separated from Africa,
Madagascan animals have evolved in isolation for thousands of years.
And they come in some surprising shapes and sizes.
We'll be travelling right across the country,
from the dry forests in the west to the rainforests of the east.
Two very different habitats, each with their own wacky, weird
and sometimes death-dealing wildlife.
# When I say jump You say, how high
# I ain't never seen nobody get so high... #
We begin in Kirindi, a remote camp famous for a predator
that is truly one of a kind.
A mysterious beast, neither a dog nor a cat,
it stalks around these forests and bites the faces off its victims.
And it's called the fossa.
Exhausted after a long day travelling,
we've just unpacked the gear when we're instantly called into action.
Just sitting down to have dinner when someone shouted the magic word
we've all been wanting to hear... "Fossa".
Somewhere over here is Madagascar's largest carnivore
and it's just been wandering around these huts.
This is very weird, not how I expected to have my first encounter
with the most feared animal in Madagascar.
But...it's somewhere in here.
'Then, from across the camp, a shout.'
'It's been spotted.'
Hello? You see?
'The race is on.'
Oh, look at that. Yeah, yeah, I see.
I just got fierce eye-shine coming back off it.
'The fossa has a long, lithe, elegant form.
'But its ferocity gives it the power of an animal many times its size.
'This is my first time face-to-face with a fossa, and suddenly,
'I'm not sure if I want to be this close.
'Fossae will take on prey at least as big as themselves,
'and she's clearly not frightened of me.'
This is such a rare sight, we are so lucky.
And I think she's heading towards...
She's going to head towards the garbage, the rubbish tip.
And look at that!
'As she leaves, she drags scent glands around her bottom
'along the ground, so other fossae will know she's been here.'
And that's the path to the rubbish.
She's heading off that way.
'She disappears off into the darkness and vanishes.
'Has she given us the slip?'
Is there somebody checking out the other path,
in case it doubles back?
'It's all hands on deck, we really want to find that fossa.'
(Oh, look at that.)
'Just as we thought, she's at the rubbish pit.
'Not even remotely bothered by the sound of our noisy generator.
'To find out more about these rare animals,
'scientists put radio collars on some of them.
'And you can see one around this female's neck.'
This maybe seems like a weird place to encounter a fossa.
They're known as being ferocious hunters and killers.
But they're not stupid.
If they get the chance of an easy meal, then they'll take it.
And right here, this rubbish tip is full of protein-rich food
and also the cockroaches that feed on it.
And right now, all she's doing is saving herself the energy
of having to hunt.
And now she's heading off into the thorn thicket,
and I don't think I can follow her through there.
It's much too dense.
I can't believe we got our first glimpse of a fossa!
'But it's late, so we call it a night.
'I' m desperate to see more of this mysterious hunter
'before we put them on the Deadly 60.
'So we'll head out tomorrow to track them down in the daylight.
'We all wake early, keen to get out on the search for those fossae.
'But first of all, we have to deal with some rather cheeky neighbours.'
This is why people come to Madagascar.
Lemurs just wandering around all over the place.
Look at this lot!
Oh, look, one's about to go into your room, Johnny.
Oh, it's Charlie's room.
Look at this! Just totally fearless.
Look, he's in Charlie's room.
Ah, he just ran out this way!
You cheeky monkey!
What are you after, eh?
Ah, ah, ah...
Lesson number one -
never leave bananas in your room. That's what they were after.
'As well as brazen brown lemurs passing through camp,
'we also found another type of lemur - the sifaka.
'With a comedy spring in its step. Get a load of this!
# I like to move it, move it
# I like to move it, move it
# I like to move it, move it
# Ya like to move it... #
'Sifaka are awesome jumpers,
'leaping up to ten metres between trees.
'But they have to be, they're the favourite food of our fossae.
'So, back on the trail of our predator,
'and we pick up a clue there might be one close by.'
There are some sifaka in the trees around us.
And the little call...
..is an alarm call because they've spotted a fossa.
And the fossa is actually out here somewhere...
..trying to hunt them.
'The lemurs are on high alert,
'terrified their fossa foe could be silently hunting them.'
There's a mother with her babies, understandably worried.
It could be the fiercest predator in Madagascar,
around here anywhere.
She's got a youngster, but she herself
would be an easy meal for a fossa.
'And this is how our fossae hunt.
'Even up in the trees, a sifaka isn't safe.
'If caught in the fossa's sights, she'll have to leap for her life.
'The fossa rockets up the tree,
'using its curved claws like crampons.
'They bound and bounce through the branches, fearless,
'locked onto their target.
'The fossa's tail helps provide balance,
'and its strong legs power it as it leaps from branch to branch.
'Pound for pound, the fossa could be
'the deadliest carnivore on the planet.'
'It seems the local sifakas had good reason to be worried.
'A fossa's been spotted right in our camp.
'And it's a different animal to last night.'
The fossa's just found a nice patch of shade under one of the huts
that we're sleeping in.
(Look at those teeth!)
'Lounging in the shade,
'there's not just one, but two fossae.'
There's two fossae, both male.
I think actually, they're brothers.
They will sleep together, hunt together, fight together.
So all the lemurs around here
have got an awful lot to be worried about.
That's two sets of very, very sharp teeth,
and two quick, agile, supreme hunters.
Oh, look at that yawn!
That's just shown off the teeth that make the fossa so special.
'The fossa's teeth have dagger-like canines
'and bone-crunching rear teeth.'
The underside of the paw is turned up, it has soft pads
and sharp claws...
..which are perfect for running up trees.
Also, the back feet can turn almost completely around,
which allows the fossa to also run down tree trunks.
It means he's a master, both on the ground and in the tree tops.
'These are Madagascars most bloodthirsty animals.'
They may not look all that deadly, sprawled out in the shade here,
but actually, what it shows is that they can be this comfortable
in front of me. Their cocky, confident attitude.
They know they're in charge.
It's just the kind of attitude you expect from a predator
that's at the top of the tree and has nothing to fear from anything.
'And as they begin to wake up,
'they start licking their lips
'and coming a little bit too close for comfort.'
The fossa, vicious hunter of Madagascar...
..is on the Deadly 60.
'A deadly acrobatic assassin,
'the fearless fossa is a lemur's living nightmare,
'killing by using its bone-crunching jaw
'to bite their faces off.
'Fossa is on the Deadly 60.
'We're leaving the dry west coast and heading east,
'to the lush jungles,
'home to some of the world's most colourful creatures.'
For a reptile lover, Madagascar is absolute paradise.
And for one lizard in particular -
This is a male Parson's chameleon,
and it's pretty much as big as chameleons get.
is a dwarf chameleon.
It's the smallest chameleon on the planet,
one of the smallest reptiles.
And way smaller than the insects that this bad boy would eat.
'That difference in size would be like you meeting a person
'five times as tall as a giraffe,
'and weighing as much as ten elephants!
'Although they can look very different,
'chameleons all use the same lethal killing techniques.'
I'm hoping to show you now why I think chameleons have to go
on the Deadly 60.
'The most famous thing about chameleons
'is that they can change the colour of their skin.'
What people don't know is, the chameleons will change colour
much more quickly in response to their emotions.
To fear, to anger, and to try and protect a territory.
'So chameleons might look pretty,
'but just like miniature dinosaurs, when they get cross,
'they really show it.'
When two males come face-to-face, they put on a remarkable display
to try and frighten the other one off. I'm not going to
put two chameleons together to fight,
but I can show them their own reflection.
And hopefully, that'll get the same response.
Let's give it a try.
Didn't like that, at all!
He nearly broke my mirror.
'The mirror looks like a rival,
'and this male's message was clear -
'Let's see how a different male reacts.'
Look at that gape, look at the mouth.
'So, male chameleons will stand their ground and put on a show
'to protect their patch.
'But it's bug hunting that makes them really deadly.
'Chameleons eat insects.
And keep their boggly eyes peeled in all directions,
'looking for a juicy meal.'
But the chameleon's most deadly skill is all down to how
it catches its insect prey.
And one of the fastest tongues in the whole animal kingdom.
The tongue can be longer than its body,
it has a sticky tip that can envelop an insect,
and it can fire out in 1/125th of a second.
'Don't blink or you'll miss it.'
'Imagine catching your dinner
'by launching your tongue across the school canteen.'
A climbing, clambering,
insect-catching, colour-morphing chameleon,
with his lightning-fast tongue...
..is on the Deadly 60.
Messy eaters, aren't they?
'Chameleons are feisty reptilian fighters,
'with 360 degree vision...
'..and equipped with one of the fastest tongues
'in the animal kingdom.
'There's no doubt about it, chameleons are deadly.'
I've never been to Madagascar before.
But you'd think, that having spent half of my adult life
in tropical rainforests,
there ought to be something here that's familiar to me.
Well, actually, that couldn't be further from the truth.
In fact, the vast majority of species found
in Madagascar's rainforests are what's known as endemic.
That means they occur here and nowhere else in the world.
Which is quite exciting, really.
'Species like this peculiar, and aptly named,
'..the glorious, howling indri lemur...
'..and this scary scuttling spider.'
'All these animals are only found here in Madagascar.
'As is our next deadly creature.
'But finding it isn't going to be as easy.'
The guys have told me that somewhere in this very tiny area here,
is one of the animals that I most want to see while I'm in Madagascar.
However, it is about as well camouflaged as any creature
on the planet.
So, I'm going to see if I can find it. I know it's here somewhere.
Let's see how long it takes me.
Oh, it's gone.
This is crazy.
'After ages staring at the same clump of branches,
'I think I might have finally spotted it.'
OK, Johnny, what I need you to do,
I need you to frame up on that portion of tree there.
-Can you see it?
OK, let's try zooming in
right where my finger is.
Can you see those eyes?
All I can see is leaves.
-Just there, see where my finger...?
OK, and zoom back out.
-Have you got it?
This is a leaf-tailed gecko.
See if I can make him move a little bit.
And then you will see him.
That's the tail there.
At this time of day, they kind of... Oh!
The leaping leaf-tailed gecko.
It takes a lot to surprise me, particularly with reptiles.
I actually think that's the most beautiful lizard I've ever seen.
The most incredibly camouflaged.
Look down the bottom lip, where it's touching my watch strap.
It's got kind of tassels hanging off it
that look just like moss or lichen.
And all down the body and legs and those incredible digits,
are just covered with little tassels that make it blend in
perfectly with the tree bark.
You are wondrous.
He's like a living tree.
This time of the day they're usually sleeping.
It's very much a...
But you can see, they can be pretty mobile when they need to be.
And, if you're a little cricket or something, scampering up the bark,
you would never see him coming.
Get close to those jaws,
it'll be the last thing you ever did.
They actually have a limited ability to change their skin colour.
Not as fast or dramatic as chameleons,
but enough that, if they have a favoured tree,
they can make themselves match it...
even more closely.
You never know,
he might change so that he looks like my face after a while!
He couldn't be that ugly!
do you reckon insects will see him if he stays here?
I think I might be spoiling his camouflage a little bit.
Come on, back to the tree. Go where you're more at home.
'The gecko lies low to avoid the attentions of daytime predators.
'Then they use the same secret skills,
'an impressive leap and sticky toes,
'to head up into the canopy at night to ambush their prey.'
He is an absolute miracle.
And to insects, one of the deadliest creatures
in the Madagascan forests.
The leaf-tailed gecko is on the Deadly 60.
'Leaf-tailed geckos are the ultimate
'masters of disguise.
'Even their eyeballs are camouflaged,
'and with their super-suction feet,
'they've earned a place on the Deadly 60.
'Madagascar is probably the world's centre for weird wildlife.
'But we've saved the most bizarre beast till last.
'This country has one deadly animal, so difficult to find
'that we've had to come to a zoo's breeding programme to see it.
'The creature we're here to see
'could be the strangest looking animal in the world.
'We quietly set up an infrared camera
'that can film in complete darkness
'to try and get our first glimpse of this very unusual predator.
'As a tropical storm beats down on the roof overhead,
'we've just got to wait.'
Come on, come on.
Here he comes.
Oh, my goodness.
That is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen.
And I've seen some real animal oddballs in my time.
This is an aye-aye.
It's one of the weirdest creatures in the world.
'And another contender for the Deadly 60 list.'
Look at those great big, long weird fingers.
The reason the eyes are glowing like that is,
they have a very special design to them that allows them to see
really well in the dark.
It's a reflective layer at the back of the eye
that makes it much more easy for them to see in low light.
Right, I think we'll give him a little while just to settle down,
then I'm going to go in and get better acquainted.
How weird was that?!
'This gremlin-like creature is totally unique.
'Take a look at this.
'It possesses one of the most
'specialised weapons in the natural world.
'And that's what makes it deadly.
'But that's not a dagger it's carrying around with it,
'that's actually one of its fingers.
'This skinny twig-like finger drums against a tree trunk,
'while super-sensitive ears are tuned in to the rustlings
'of any potential prey hiding inside.
'If there's a meal to be had,
'the aye-aye will find it.
'Once locked on, it unleashes its awesome chisel-like teeth
'that make short work of the bark,
'before poking in that deadly digit and hooking out a juicy meal.'
OK, so we're going to make our way into this cage.
I just hope it'll be OK with us going in there.
'I' m dying to get a closer look at that strange hunting technique,
'and hoping we can show it to you.'
There he is, there he is. He's in here.
There, Johnny, up there, look.
Can you see him?
This is such a spooky experience.
You almost totally forget that you're in a zoo,
with this crazy goblin.
I think she thought my finger was...
something edible, for a second there.
When it comes down to it,
they are pretty fierce.
The first zoologists that are ever discovered the aye-aye
really didn't know what to do with it.
It's such a mish-mash of animal parts.
It's got a great big, long bushy tail,
so they thought it might be a squirrel.
It also has long incisor teeth, like a rodent, that never stop growing.
So they kind of thought that it was like a very peculiar squirrel,
but it's not at all.
It is a lemur, it is a primate.
But the strangest one I've ever seen.
'Perhaps that's the weirdest thing of all -
'as a primate, she's distantly related to you and me.'
The aye-aye is a very specialised feeder.
If you look at that front foot, you'll notice
that the middle finger is kind of all weird looking.
It has no flesh, no muscle.
It's just one long jointed pencil-like digit.
(Look what he's doing right now.)
Just using that finger to dig out
little grubs that are beneath the bark.
That is crazy!
With their superhero hearing...
..that crazy fish-hook finger...
..the aye-aye is truly one of the greatest,
weirdest insect hunters in the world.
And the strangest animal on the Deadly 60.
'The remarkable aye-aye.
'Equipped with night vision,
'huge satellite-dish ears that give it superb hearing,
'and the world's freakiest finger!
'All in all, a grub's worst nightmare.
'Join me next time as I continue my search for the Deadly 60.'
Up there, the silverback.
The chimp's going after them. No way!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Steve and the team embark on a truly incredible adventure across the vast island of Madagascar. Many of the creatures they meet cannot be found anywhere else in the world. From gremlin-like aye-ayes to Madagascar's most ferocious carnivore, Steve has some unique encounters as he searches for contenders for the Deadly 60.